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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2008, 15:56 GMT

Publish expenses now, says Clegg

Nick Clegg
Mr Clegg said most of the details should be published

Delaying publication of MPs' expenses is a "hammer blow" to public confidence in the Commons, says Nick Clegg.

They were due to be released after Commons authorities lost a Freedom of Information case - but instead the Commons launched a High Court appeal.

It argues MPs' addresses should not be published on security grounds but Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg said that did not stop other details being published.

Meanwhile MPs have voted to declare all relatives employed using public money.

Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4's Today programme his understanding, when he was told about the appeal a week ago, was that it was on the specific issue of addresses.

Full declaration

He does not object to that but said it should not hold up the release of a detailed breakdown of MPs' claims under their second homes allowance.

Mr Clegg said: "The reason why this feels like a needless, additional hammer blow to public confidence in the House of Commons and what MPs do, is, I think we all now accept, that there should be full declaration of all MPs' expenses.

Most people who enter public life are doing it for the best of reasons, but where people are making mistakes and there are abuses they have got to be rooted out
Gordon Brown

"That will happen in the coming months once the arrangements are put in place in any event.

"So it's not as though it's doing anything other than delaying the inevitable."

An Information Tribunal ruled last month that the Commons must release a detailed breakdown of 14 MPs' claims under their Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) - under which each MP can claim up to 23,000 a year to cover costs associated with running a second home.

Sub-judice

But as the deadline neared, the Commons authorities announced they would make a last-ditch appeal to the High Court. The date for a hearing has not yet been set.

On Wednesday Labour MP David Winnick asked Speaker Michael Martin in the Commons on what grounds the appeal was based, but was told he could not raise it, as it was "sub-judice" - a matter before the courts.

Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten, who was among the 14 on the list, said he had not been asked whether he wanted to appeal and was concerned it looked like "we are trying to hide something".

Speaker Michael Martin in the Commons
Commons authorities are fighting the ruling at the High Court

Requests for information about claims by the 14 MPs, who include Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, were made in 2005.

As a result of the tribunal ruling, it has already been revealed that MPs can claim up to 10,000 for a new kitchen, 2,000 for furniture and 750 for a TV or stereo under the ACA.

Rules that allowed MPs to claim up to 250 without providing a receipt are to be changed - they will only be able to claim up to 25 from 1 April - as part of a continuing review of MPs' expenses set up by the Speaker.

Employing relatives

The review, which will report back in the summer, after Conservative MP Derek Conway was censured over payments to his son totalling 40,000 for work as a Parliamentary researcher - of which a standards committee said there was no record.

On Thursday, MPs agreed to accept recommendations from the Commons standards committee that they declare details of all relatives employed out of taxpayers' money, without a vote.

From next week, they will put down the names and jobs of family members in the Register of Members' Interests and explain the family relationship. This will be compulsory from 1 August.

Earlier the prime minister was asked on GMTV why the expenses details were not being published.

He said he had told the Speaker more transparency was needed but the thing to do now was get a new system in place, by the summer so that in future all information was published.

"Most people who enter public life are doing it for the best of reasons, they want to help people, but where people are making mistakes and there are abuses they have got to be rooted out," he said.

SEE ALSO
Bid to block expenses questioned
26 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
Pressure for MP expenses overhaul
21 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
MPs' 10,000 kitchens on expenses
13 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
In full: MPs' 'John Lewis list'
13 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
MPs face tougher receipts rules
11 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
'Lax' MP expenses rules condemned
26 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
'John Lewis' list kept from MPs
08 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Expenses details 'intrude' on MPs
07 Feb 08 |  UK Politics

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